Welsh Campaigners Welcome St Athan Standstill

Those working to halt the building of the proposed Military Academy at St Athan have welcomed this week’s announcement by defence minister Bob Ainsworth that the decision whether or not to go ahead with the St Athan Military ‘Academy’ will not be made until Spring 2009 – and the contract not to be signed until 15 months later (1).

While peace and justice campaigners remain resolute in their campaign to stop the St Athan White Elephant completely, they consider this hold-up to be a partial victory in their campaign against the militarisation of Wales and the privatisation of the armed forces.

Campaigners against the academy are opposed to the proposed furthering of the already over-militarisation of Wales to create ‘a place of excellence’ (sic) for new military techniques such as ‘remote killing’ using satellite, computer spying and targeting of missiles and unmanned military vehicle technology.

CND Cymru Chair Jill Evans has opposed the proposals for St Athan since their inception. St Athan Academy represents a publicly funded privatisation of military training which would be available to any regime or private company with the ready cash to pay, and would lock Wales in to a
reliance on the manufacture and sale of armaments.

The St Athan military training proposal is also already having a ‘militarising’ effect on the curriculum of educational institutions in South Wales and of the Open University (2).

At a commemoration ceremony at Penyberth, Lleyn this September, Dafydd Iwan said:

“Wales is recognised for its traditions of peace and reconciliation. I want to see those traditions continue, and for us to become a driving force for peace in the world, a task for which we have the skills and the potential.

“Instead the British government would make us the centre of training for war, putting that training in the hands of multinational arms companies. It is important that the facts are revealed. ”

“We are opposed to the privatisation of military training.” (3)

Visitors to the National Eisteddfod in Cardiff this summer overwhelmingly expressed shame and disgust at the idea of the military educational establishment which would be the biggest PFI deal in Wales, do nothing to address the causes of conflict in the world and promote international economic bullying that does not serve the poor and needy.

This week’s news have caused speculation that by the spring of 2009, the deepening financial crisis may have made it even less likely that the St Athan Military Academy project will actually go ahead.  Despite the credit crunch, energy crisis and threat of global warming our Government and its supporters continue to lack the long term principles and vision necessary to make the future safer for future generations.

Peace, justice and environmental campaigners are deeply concerned that as sustainability is a core value for government in Wales, then this aspiration has been completely ignored in the rush to hand money over to multinational arms dealers and their friends.

1. Hansard:  House of Commons 9th October 2008 Column 453 Mr. Ainsworth:
“Hon. Members will be aware that progress on defence training review package 1 has been more difficult and prolonged than expected. However, I can report that considerable progress has been made in driving down costs and towards achieving an affordable, value-for-money package 1, which is on track for an investment decision next spring, with the contract signature to come approximately 15 months later.”

2. “The development of the Defence Training Academy at St. Athan would have implications for the Education service.  These ranged from planning and providing school places to the potential development of new curriculum pathways for 14-19.  This would need to feature in the work of the Committee for the foreseeable future.” Vale of Glamorgan Scrutiny Committee January 21 2008.

3. Jill Evans MEP and Dafydd Iwan joined Rev. Guto Prys ap Gwynfor to light a flame of peace at Penyberth, near Pwllheli in September this year. The event commemorated the fire lit by Saunders Lewis, Rev. Lewis Valentine and DJ Davies to stop the building of a bombing school there in 1936. The event sent a clear message to the politicians in Cardiff Bay and London of the need to oppose the proposed military academy at St Athan. www.cymdeithasycymod.org.uk/saintathan-saesneg.htm

4.Cynefin y Werin (Common Ground) is an all Wales network of organisations which promotes equality, peace, justice, human rights and co-operation between nations, peoples and communities on the basis of sustainable environmental, economic and social development. See

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Protest Against St Athan at Penyberth

Jill Evans and Dafydd Iwan in Penyberth

Jill Evans and Dafydd Iwan in Penyberth

Jill Evans, Plaid Cymru MEP and Chair of CND Wales, spoke at a commemoration ceremony at Penyberth, Lleyn. She said, “We cannot remain silent today and we have the right and the responsibility to say we will not accept anything at any price, such as St Athan, for the sake of jobs alone. We have a right to question what sort of jobs would come for local people, since we need a sustainable economy here in Wales. Wales has a potential to be a force for peace in the world. We must decide in Wales what kind of Wales we want. St Athan military academy was a Westminster decision, not one made here.” Dafydd Iwan, President of Plaid Cymru joined Jill in criticising the St Athan proposals, “I want [Wales] to become a driving force for peace in the world, a task for which we have the skills and the potential. Instead the British government would make us the centre of training for war, putting that training in the hands of multinational arms companies. It is important that the facts are revealed. “

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Private Eye reports St Athan bid on the rocks

Rumours have long been circulated that Metrix’s plan for a privatised military training school at St Athan are in difficulty. Now Private Eye reports the following:

Documents from the Defence Training Review executive board show that:
* there are “major affordability issues” that will affect frontline services and that the “affordability gap” is so sensitive it couldn’t even be disclosed to the executive board!
* there are 15 significant risks from opting for the Metrix project in terms of standards and impact on frontline troops.
* 72% of trainers have said they won’t move to South Wales – so there will not be enough skilled personnel to actually do the work.
* there are inconsistencies in training standards between privatised training and in-house MOD training.
* there is a risk that the 2012 Olympics construction and other MOD projects will mean construction industry can’t cope and further delays are expected via the planning process and public inquiries.
* there is a risk that the project will not receive exemption from the accounting rules – the whole point of any PFI project!
* the consequence of this would be to make the project unaffordable and therefore prevent the project from progressing in its current form.

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